Hurricane's Hints

Everything you always wanted to know about Web Design, PhotoShop and Flash .... but refused to buy the book! A collection of helpful hints, tips and tricks for creating stunning computer graphics and keeping your computer running smooth.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Cache or charge? - How and why you should clear your cache frequently.

Many annoying computer problems and costly service calls can be avoided by simply clearing your cache.

What exactly is a cache, and why do I have to clear it?

Whenever you are connected to the internet, your computer stores temporary copies of the webpages that you visit on your computer. The storage area designated for these temporary files is refferred to as your cache.

The theory behind this was that a page you visit often could be called up from your hard drive cache faster than if it had to be downloaded from the web each time. If you use dial-up or have a slow internet connection, this can be very helpful, but if you have a faster connection such as DSL, Cable or another Broad-Band connection, it is less important for you store pages on your computer.

After a while, your hard drive will begin to fill up with these temporary files and it can cause a number of annoying problems. One of the most common complaints is that your browser may not always be viewing the most current version of the page you are visiting (instead you are viewing an old version that had been stored in your cache). If you have an older computer with minimal ram and a small hard drive, you may notice that your computer is sluggish when the cache is full. I have also seen a full cache cause printing problems or it can disable some features in your browser, such as the ability to view source code. All of these problems, and many more can often be eliminated by simply clearing the cache, so, before your call the help line, try clearing the cache.

The proceedure for clearing the cache will vary from one browser to another (Internet Exlorer, Netscape, AOL, Mozilla, etc...), but they all have a menu option that does it. You just have to find it. Here's the proceedure for Internet Explorer 6:

First, open the Internet Properties Tab on your Browser:

From the desktop, right click on the Internet Explorer Icon and select properties, or if your browser is already open, from the Tools menu, select Internet Options. (All other browsers should have an options or properties menu item as well).

In IE6, there are 3 buttons in the Temporary Internet Files section of the Properties Tab. Start by clicking on the Delete Cookies Button. It should only take a few seconds for the cookies to be deleted. Then click on the Delete Files button. The longer this operation takes, the more urgently your computer needed you to clear the cache. If you've never done this before, it could take several minutes. If you get into the habit of doing this at least once a week, it should only take a few seconds.

That's pretty much it. Delete cookies and delete temporary internet files. Easy huh?

If you want to go a step further, you can check and adjust your settings by clicking the settings button.

On the settings tab, you have 4 options of how you want your computer to "check for newer versions of stored pages" in your cache. The Windows default is set to automatic, but I suggest you change this setting to "every visit to the page", which means your computer will only look for a newer version if you happen to visit the same page again, this way none of your computer resources will be wasted looking for pages that you rarely or never visit.

The settings tab also gives you the ability to adjust the amount of disk space that is allotted for the cache. The default is around 350MB, which is OK if you use dialup or have a slow connection, but if you have broadband, you can lower this setting to around 50MB.

Follow these simple tips, and help preserve the sanity of a computer technician near you.

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